First stretch, dehydration, winds and into Patagonia
Its already been a few days after my original departing date, but finally got my wheel to stay inflated long enough to hit the road! Now I was off to Puerto Natales, where the winds literally blew me of the road, bad dehydration and beautiful views at the start of Patagonia. Now its time to start my crossing across South America!
South America start
My South American starting date finally arrived! Its been a few frustrating days to get my bike ready for the cycle, but was ready to start my crossing north towards Columbia.
With a complete new setup, it was interesting to get everything on the bike. Although I had half the weight of what I had before, with less space on the bike, it was quite the first pack session. I soon realized that during the first 1000km, everything will keep moving around until it find the perfect space on the bike.
My girlfriend Karen had to catch her bus from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales at 1pm, so I walked with her to the bus stop, where I started my cycle at 12:30pm. South America has officially started!
Here I go
The bike rolled beautifully as I made my way out of the city. The winds where soaring, but at least it was a tail-cross wind. With the light setup I also decided to carry much less water than I did before. Water normally adds 5 – 10 kg to the bike. I decided to take only 3 liters and decision soon came back to bite me in the ass.
I was not planning to do a very long distance on the first day. I just wanted to get out of the city and get a good feel of the bike and how I packed it. I knew that I will completely repack all my bags the first night. The wind soon turned into a headwind and my pace was soon slowing down tremendously. At 6pm I called it a day after only managing 51km. The last 20km took me over three and a half hours (on the bike), because of strong headwinds. But I felt good after finally being back on the road. I found a perfect camping spot next to one the lagoons in the area, made some food and started to repack all my gear.
I was already running short on water, which was a problem. The lagoon was salt water, so that was not a drinking option. I could not find anyone on the last 25km to get a refill. I saw some clouds in the distance and was hoping for some rain. I builded a rain catcher with some things I could find in the area, but the rain never came. During the night, it’s always my time to hydrate and get ready for the next day, but with only one liter of water this was not the case. I drank only 500ml and left the rest for the first stretch the next day, while I try to get a refill.
One of the toughest days on the adventure
The second day started off good as I found some people working on some abandoned building close to my campsite. I drank the 500ml and they refilled my three letter bag. This was a good morale booster before starting a very tough day.
I was planning a long day and was hoping to cover close to 100km. A long day it was, but not close to my kilometer goal.
The light morning breeze quickly turned into an constant 40km/h to 70km/h headwind. The adventure grind was back on!
I was barely moving! After my first stretch of the day, which was a nonstop 4hour grind, I only managed to cycle 20km. My water was taking a knock. At that moment I knew there was a small road stop about 21km down the road, but was hoping I will manage to get water way before that. Three liters of water is not nearly enough on a day like this.
I stopped for another water break at one of the many small weird bus stops. Its more of a 1 x 1 meter box. But this gets you out of the wind, which was great. My bike was leaning against it while I was inside, snacking and having some water. The next moment I heard my bike shifting and a loud bang… bang… bang…. bang!! I had a very good idea of what happened. Next to the bus box, there was a 5m drop on the side of the road. My bike shifted and the wind got a good grab of the bike and blew it over the edge. With all the gear in rolled down to the bottom. Luckily nothing got damaged.
Eight hours into the day (cycling time on the bike) I was nearly out of water, with only 250ml left in my bag. I started to feel dizzy and my vision became a little blurry… this has happened twice before on the adventure and I knew I was in a little bit of trouble.
Dehydration comes quick and when it does you need to make a plan and make it quick. I could not see any water on the flat desert landscape. And then I saw a motorcycle about 1km in front of me on one of the road stop pullouts. I cycled like crazy to catch them, but could not get there in time before they drove off.
This was the last bit of any energy I had in me at that time. I had to get water! As I pulled off at the road stop, I saw a water bottle laying in the grass. I ran over and was overwhelmed when I saw there where about 1 liter of water still in it. When I twisted the cap, I heard some gas exiting the bottle… it was carbonated water!! I did not smell or taste before starting to gulp away. I drank half of that, pitched my tent (at around 4pm) and took a three hour rest. I finished the last drop just before I packed up again to keep going at around 7:30pm. I needed to get to the small village and with the extra fuel in my body, I could make it!
I got there just after 9pm and one of the shops was still open! I refilled BOTH of my water bags, which gave me 6 liters of water, brought a 2l Coca Cola and 1,5 liter of fruit juice. The juice was finished before I cycled off and also drank about 1liter of water. I felt like a new person and cycled another 10km before finding a perfect camping spot. That night I celebrated with a massive meal, drinking lots of water and Coca Cola. I was ready for a big day!
Big day and close to Puerto Natales
The next day the winds calmed down a little, but was still blowing between 30- and 45km/h. At-least it was mostly crosswinds. After 60km the views became better as Patagonia came closer. I felt good and managed to get cold water on two occasions. Finally some climbs started, which I always love. The landscape was getting more beautiful with very kilometer I cycled. I managed a great 102km with the strong cross winds, which made me feel really good! I was only 50km away from Puerto Natales.
I made in into Puerto Natales at 11am the next day. It was a good morning for cycling! I met up with Karen and was now starting to plan our few excursion hikes in the southern parts of Patagonia. This is also the time we are taking to sort our gear and get everything in place for our 1000km Patagonia hike starting end of January.